Head Gwen Byrom on the benefits investing in the arts brings to the entire curriculum

The aim of education is to help develop rounded individuals who not only possess academic prowess but are also creative in the way they think and approach tasks. Gwen Byrom, headmistress of Loughborough High School (LHS), part of Loughborough Endowed Schools, discusses what investment in the arts brings to the entire curriculum

Investment in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects has been given much acclaim over recent years, cited both across the education sector and in the national press as a high priority. However, the arts most definitely deserve attention too.

Science and arts

I see more similarities between the science and arts subjects than may appear on first glance. At Loughborough High School we have found that investing in creative subjects not only enhances students’ imagination but also benefits the entire curriculum.

For example, it is clear that the skills nurtured in creative subjects have a positive impact across the board, including on an individual’s personal development. Presenting a finished piece of artwork to a teacher can require bravery and the need to justify why and how the student has chosen to follow a particular artistic direction. It is this sense of ‘performance’ which gives students a flavour of what it is like, post-education, in the working world, where employees are regularly required to demonstrate progress, ideas and to report back with assurance.

It is clear that the skills nurtured in creative subjects have a positive impact across the board, including on an individual’s personal development

Invest in the arts

As such, we would certainly recommend schools and institutions invest more in the arts. For example, in 2014, we created a new initiative specifically to support our art department by employing a full-time artist in residence (AIR). Emily Notman, our pioneer AIR, is a mixed media artist who inspired our students with her delicate textile pieces and the scheme was so successful we have continued to invite an artist into our foundation; this year, we welcomed Cisca Collins, a talented ceramic potter. Cisca broadens the opportunities available to our students through her pottery classes, as well as supporting staff in timetabled lessons.

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Supporting staff as well as students

Our AIR scheme also supports the staff, equipping teachers with new skills in ceramics and a legacy of teaching techniques which can be implemented long after the AIR has finished their post. In addition, such a relationship can provide an invaluable sounding board for teachers, inspiring lesson plans and providing feedback on upcoming projects.

It’s a fantastic way to bring fresh ideas into the school which will benefit students, teachers and the wider school community for years to come

An AIR is a positive role model who demonstrates that careers in the arts are attainable and realistic. Both artists we have hosted at LHS are successful businesswomen in their own right; having access to such an inspirational figure is incredibly important to inspire students who want to pursue a career in the subject.

Welcoming creativity

Our AIR scheme has been a resounding success and in future we intend to seek out and employ more artists working with a diverse range of materials. It’s a fantastic way to bring fresh ideas into the school which will benefit students, teachers and the wider school community for years to come.

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